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Binge Drinking Among Canadian Undergraduates

Binge drinking refers to the excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages in order to get intoxicated over a very short time. This kind of drinking is usually intended by the participants and it is very common among the college students in most countries. The behavior is usually considered a social activity among the college students and is in done in groups. Binge drinking among the college students differs from country to country and it is usually affected by various factors. Binge drinking has been associated with five or more drinks in a single occasion for men and four drinks or more for women. Heavy drinking of alcohol involves two or more episodes of drinking in a period of two weeks.

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Even with the known effects of binge drinking many students seem to ignore the facts and they continue to engage in the behavior. The heavy drinking behavior has become a matter of public concern and a major problem among the universities in Canada. It is associated with a lot of risks and consequences for the participants. This study concentrates with binge drinking among the undergraduate students in Canada. The rates for binge drinking are considered very high and are comparable with the drinking behavior in the United States. The study will analyze the reasons and the various factors that lead students to engage in the risky drinking behavior. It goes further to look at the consequences that have been related to the behavior among the undergraduates. Study builds on the various studies that have been performed by various scholars.

Reasons for drinking

Binge drinking is viewed as a norm in the campuses and very few students are willing to change from the habit. The lack of order that results from the drunken students is viewed as a form of excitement and entertainment for the students without the consideration of the consequences that they are causing to themselves. Changing the attitude of the students about this behavior has become a big challenge. Various studies have tried to focus on the major reasons and the contributing factors that make the undergraduate students engage in the behavior. Student’s drinking has been associated with specific situations such as occasions which most scholars have referred to as situational drinking. Kairouz et al in their studies on reasons why students drink took a good look at why the students drank, when they did it, where and with whom they engaged the drinking with. Among the university students drinking is a normal social process for socializing and meeting with their friends. Other students have indicated that they drink to get a good feeling while others will drink to forget about their problems and worries. The study linked drinking with certain motivations that incite the students to drink. Social activities are one of the major reasons that the students will engage in drinking. When the students gather for the social activities, alcohol is considered an important accompaniment as they chat with one another. Other factors that will motivate students to drink will include the need to promote the well being of an individual (pp 601). Students believe that by engaging in binge drinking they will be able to promote their ego by forgetting about the negative influences in their lives resulting from other factors such as academics in their life. Motivational factors are usually very influential since the students will be expecting to experience some kind of change just by engaging in alcoholic behaviors.

Another reason for drinking cited in the paper is the coping reasons. This is used as an aid to help the students escape from their social problems. Other factors which the authors regard as temporally include the time that is used for drinking, the companion and the drinking places. The factors and the reasons for drinking usually determine the level of drinking that the students engage in. The study went further and did a survey on the various reasons that students gave as a justification to binge drinking in the Canadian Universities. Among the sample taken, 24.9% of the students said that they engaged in alcohol to enjoy the taste of alcohol or to enhance and accompany their meals. This factor is usually related to the home set up where most Canadians believe that a meal is not complete without the accompaniment of a drink which normally is wine. This becomes an introduction set up for the students to engage in alcoholic behaviors. 21.3% of the students indicated that they drank just to celebrate while 16.9% gave socialization as the major reason for drinking. 2.1 % drank to forget their worries while 2.1 % drank in order to overshadow their shyness while socializing (pp 602).

The study also indicated that students drinking was associated to various situations such as parties, get together and other group activities. Most of the binge drinking also takes place during the weekends with Friday and Saturday the peak days. The students also engage in binge drinking while they are in a group as opposed to individual drinking (pp 603). The authors concluded that the social reasons were the primary factors that the students engaged in binge drinking (606). Drinking among the undergraduates is usually attached to some kind of symbolic meaning which eventually determines their motives and also their expectations from the drinking. The study concludes that the reasons for drinking vary among genders and the various reasons for drinking together with the situations affect the students alcoholic behaviors (pp 607). Other reasons that the students give as to why they engage in the behaviors include complying with others and to feel relaxed.

Situational and individual factors

Binge drinking has been associated with specific situations. The setting as to which the alcohol is being consumed will actually affect the amount of alcohol that the students will take. Such situations also affect the frequency of alcohol intake for the students. On the other hand the character of the individuals will also influence the consumption intake at any one given occasion. Demersa et al, took a study on the various characteristics based on the situational and the individual characteristics. University students usually have their set norms on their drinking behavior and most students adopt to this norm as an important part of their campus life. The heavily drinking style of the students differs in terms of gender, their attitudes, expectancies, believes and also their personality (pp 416). The individual factors of the alcoholic behavior are influenced by how the individuals have been brought up which refers to the family background, youth and also the development in childhood. The individual experiences within the universities regarding the behavior are therefore diversified. Demersa et al suggest that students will consume a lot of alcohol during occasions and other social functions with their friends.

Drinking on each occasion is usually different from the other occasion depending on the motivating factors, the company and also the students personal expectations from the alcohol. The students who are engaged in a lot of occasional drinking tend to consume more alcohol each time they drink. In the survey taken in the study, 51% of the students linked their drinking to situational factors while 49% related their drinking to individual characteristics (pp 422). Undergraduate males associate their drinking more with the situational factors and this becomes a primary factor in the drinking behaviors. The study in general suggests that the more students engage in occasional drinking the more they will drink per occasion. The drinking pattern within the universities is more of party orientated behavior than personal behavior. The amount that is consumed per occasion will greatly be influenced by the setting of the place where the drinking is taking place. The study also supports the fact that drinking is usually in form of groups and is influenced a lot by the composition of the group (pp 416).

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Social anxiety and expectancies

Social anxiety has been cited as another major reason as to why the students engage in alcoholic behaviors. The expectations that the students perceive to get from engaging in binge drinking will influence the consumption and also the frequency of drinking by the students. The expectation that being intoxicated with alcohol will reduce their social anxiety will increase the consumption of alcohol. Tran et al, took a study on this theory and they suggest that undergraduate students would engage in more alcohol consumption if they expect the behavior to reduce their social anxiety. The engagement in alcohol is solely because they expect certain specific outcomes from the drinking. The consumption rate will be determined by the amount of anxiety that the individuals have (pp 536). Students who are shy are more likely to have higher social anxiety and they are therefore prone to high alcohol consumption. The study suggests that students who do not expect the alcohol to reduce their social anxiety drank less while those with high expectations would drink more alcohol per occasion. Social gatherings were also addressed as increasing the social anxiety among the students and this promoted heavy drinking among the undergraduates. Those who are involved in such social gatherings usually have very high social anxiety and they drink heavily in such occasions (pp 549). The study indicates that students who are able to avoid social gatherings drink less although fewer opportunities to drink did not indicate that this would reduce the consumption intake when the students engage in drinking.

Drinking games and pre-partying

Drinking games can be defined as gaming norms adopted by the undergraduates which involve competition and social interaction which they regard as a way of promoting their social cohesion. Students will have other behaviors referred to as pre-partying where the individuals will engage in drinking before they go to planned destinations. The university environment provides a good environment for the students to form such groups which are regarded with a lot of significance by the students. The perceived and the expected behaviors in such games usually affects the consumption of alcohol by the students. The expectation that other students will be drank before gathering in the expected destination will influence other students to drink. If the student perceive that other students will be more drunk, it will make them to consume more alcohol. Pedersen et al, cited this as the strongest prediction of drinking among the undergraduates. This authors go further and examine the contextual and the situational factors that influence these behaviors that promote heavy drinking among the students. The drinking games that the students have set usually have various rules and most students are able to abide by them easily as a form of making more fun (pp407). Such rules include becoming more drunk and forcing others to drink. In the end, such rules will end up becoming like competition where the individuals well compete who can drink more than the other. Pedersen et al took a study on how the students estimate the drinking of the fellow students within the campus. The survey indicated that many students actually overestimated how much other students were drinking (pp 409). Such over estimation means that the students will drink more thinking that their friends are more drank than themselves. This brings the study to a conclusion that the actual drinking by the undergraduate students will be higher if they perceive their colleagues to be more drunk. The perception that other students will be drunk makes one to drink more. On the other hand, students will drink in the pre-partying in order to avoid being the only ones. The study also indicates that male students may engage in drinking in order to be at per with their friends, to enable them socialize and to reduce being shy. As for the female students they believed that drinking would help them get more attention and acceptance from their male colleagues. Women students are a subject to peer pressures into the habit more than their male counterparts.

Joel Gross bard et al examined the relation-ship between these drinking games and the problems that are related to binge drinking. The study concentrated with the college athletes and the non athletes. Binge drinking among the athletes is promoted by the drinking games participation. The athletes consider the drinking games as a way of promoting their social status and as a method of encouraging their players (pp97). The study confirms the fact that students have numerous drinking games and they base on these games to demonstrate their physical and cognitive skills. The study taken by the authors indicated that students have 47% to 62% of participation into the drinking games. In terms of gender, men are more involved in the drinking games than women. The drinking activities are also more prevalent among the athletes than the non- athletes (pp98). Women are cited to consume more alcohol in such settings than in any other social activity. The drinking games among the undergraduate in the Canadian universities are a great risk factor since they promote very high consumption of alcohol among the students.

Depression and response

The manner in which the students responded to their depressive situations determine the amount of alcohol consumption they are engaged in. Benjamin Goldstan brings out methods in which the students approach their depression. He looked at the attributional style, rumination, distraction and the coping style. Rumination involved the emotional behaviors which was found to have low levels of coping with depression. The approach is adopted by the males and they are more likely to consume more alcohol to sooth down their emotions especially if they have high distress (pp28). Most men are unable to express their problems or even to discuss them and this makes them to chose to keep quite and sort by them selves. They ruminate on their problems and if a solution does not come by soon it might lead to higher levels of depression which might propagate higher consumption of alcohol. The study indicates that students will consume alcohol depending on how they respond to their depression. Women are likely to get involved in other activities which acts as a way of distraction from the stress. They are therefore likely to consume less alcohol due to depression. With the attributional style, it depends on hoe the individuals understand their depression (pp33). If the individuals are pessimistic about negative occurrences in their life , they will consume more alcohol than if they were optimistic about the situation.


Individuals who engage in binge drinking usually encounter a lot of life threatening risks. The effects can be classified as both long term and short term effects. The short term effects are deemed to affect the individuals at immediate time they are intoxicated with alcohol. The first major short term effect is the slowing of the brain which makes the students unable to register and combine stages of reasoning in the actions they are engaged in. The undergraduate students are likely to experience a lot of impairments in their judgments and this means that their reasoning capacity is very low. Another most common short term effect is the blurred eyesight. Excessive intake of alcohol affects the brain glucose which is responsible for ensuring clear vision. This makes them engage in very risky behaviors such as engaging in unprotected sex which puts them at the risk of unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted disease, reckless driving, fights and arguments among others. On other cases the participants will experience complete black out due to the effects of the alcohol. This then leads to great hangovers which makes it very difficult for the students to concentrate in class for their studies. The hangovers usually result from dehydration which results from ethanol in the alcohol. The individuals suffer from very severe headaches and dryness in organs such as the mouth. Other short term effects include vomiting, nausea, shaking and also memory loss. Excessive intake of alcohol has been associated with various medical complications. Most undergraduates who are involved in binge drinking are also at high risk of suffering mental health (James, pp6). They are therefore more likely to have difficulties concentrating with their studies and they therefore form a higher percentage of school dropouts in Canada. This is because drinking will result to impairing the individuals’ patterns of having enough sleep and this affects their concentration during the day. This is the translated into poor school performance for the students and thus poor academic performance. Binge drinking makes the students to become very aggressive and they lack complete awareness of their actions. The youths become subjects to reckless driving behaviors, misconduct, loss of control and it exposes the victims to other risks such a physical and sexual assault. According to James, alcohol consumption can result to more then 60 different diseases (pp6). The undergraduates are also likely to become addicted to alcohol later in life and this may cause more social, family and personals problems which may eventually lead to death. Some of the chronic diseases that the students are exposed to include alcohol poisoning, liver cirrhosis, pancreatic complications among others (pp7). Failure in life from alcohol dependence may lead such students to commit suicide. The undergraduates are also at a risk of engaging in consumption of other substances such as drugs. This increases the death risks in their life due to the severity of the consequences.


In conclusion binge drinking is a risky behavior among the undergraduates in the Canadian universities and colleges. It leads to many short term and long term effects which might cause adverse changes in the lives of the undergraduates. Lack of control in the excessive drinking by the undergraduates might eventually affect the education system. The government should consider various measures that can be imposed to the universities in order to reduce binge drinking. This includes education programs that will enhance the knowledge of the consequences of binge drinking. The taxes imposed on the drinks should be higher since this would be a cost effective way of reducing consumption by the students (James, pp15-19). The norms in the society about drinking should be revised through vigorous social campaigns to change the believes about drinking that prevail amongst the undergraduates. Other approaches should be counsellings from the health professionals. Such measures would help to reduce the social and economic cost that result from binge drinking.

Work cited

Andree Demersa et al. Multilevel analysis of situational drinking among Canadian undergraduates. Canada, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 2002

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Benjamin I. Goldstein. Why do Women get Depressed and Men get Drunk?An Examination of Attributional Style and Coping Style in Response to Negative Life Events Among Canadian Young Adults. Springer publication, 2006

Darlene James. Alcohol: The Forgotten Problem Policy Background Paper. Alberta Alcohol and drug abuse Commission, 2005.

Eric R. Pedersen and Joseph W. Labrie. Normative Misperceptions of Drinking Among College

Students: A Look at the Specific Contexts of Prepartying and Drinking Games. California, Loyola Marymount University, 2007

Giao Q. Tran, David A. F. Haaga and Dianne L. Chambless. Expecting That Alcohol Use Will Reduce Social Anxiety. Moderates the Relation Between Social Anxiety and Alcohol Consumption. Plenum Publishing Corporation, 1997

Joel Grossbard et al. Are Drinking Games Sports? College Athlete Participation in Drinking Games and Alcohol-Related Problems. Washington, University of Washington, 2006.

Sylvia Kairouz. For All These Reasons, I Do… Drink: A Multilevel Analysis of Contextual Reasons for Drinking among Canadian Undergraduates. Canada, Health and Prevention Social Research Group, 2001.

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